Dusty Baker, pitch counts and pitcher injuries

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Jeff Fletcher at AOL takes a closer look at the conventional wisdom that Dusty Baker is the angel of death when it comes to young starting pitchers:

There is no way to prove conclusively why any pitcher gets injured, so
the claims of pitcher abuse by Baker will forever be just theories. It
is indisputable, though, that Baker has had his starting pitchers
consistently throw more pitches than the norm.

Pitchers on Baker’s teams have thrown more pitches per start than the
National League average for pitchers on other teams in 14 of his 16
seasons. The difference is just about five pitches per game over his
career, but he has had two years in which his pitchers threw at least
10 more pitches, on average, than the rest of the league. One of those
was 2003.

Fletcher is pretty thorough in his reporting here, providing all of the pro-Dusty and con-Dusty I can recall hearing over the past decade or so.  It’s definitely worth a click-though and a full read.

My view: Dusty catches a more flak than he probably deserves for the specific injuries that have occurred on his watch. Some have suggested that Mark Prior’s allegedly perfect mechanics were actually far from it and inevitably led to his injuries. As Fletcher notes, Kerry Wood had an injury history before Baker drove him hard, and simply watching the torque he put on the ball back in the day was enough to make your arm hurt.  Fletcher notes other examples of pitchers who suffered injures under Baker that likely had little to do with their pitch counts.

That said, the fact is that we simply don’t know enough about the link between pitch counts and injuries to where Dusty can be excused for the consistently and significantly higher pitch counts his pitchers are forced to endure. I can’t say that Dusty Baker killed Mark Prior’s career, but I can’t say he didn’t either, and there’s no evidence that Baker every gave much thought to the matter at the time.

If I’m running a team and I’m investing tens of millions of dollars in precious pitchers, that’s simply unacceptable to me. 

Matt Chapman to be sidelined for six weeks following shoulder surgery

Matt Chapman
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Jane Lee of MLB.com reports that Athletics third baseman Matt Chapman has undergone his second surgery of the offseason. After feeling continued discomfort in his left shoulder, he had a distal clavicle resection on Friday, for which he’ll be sidelined at least six weeks before getting cleared to resume his preseason workout regimen.

The 25-year-old corner infielder closed out his sophomore season in the majors in 2018. He batted a terrific .278/.356/.508 with 24 home runs, an .864 OPS and 6.5 fWAR across 616 plate appearances, received his first career Gold Glove distinction and was a finalist for the American League MVP award as well. Despite recent complications, Chapman’s regular season performance wasn’t marred by injury — he sustained a right thumb contusion in June, but bounced back within three weeks and enjoyed a strong second half — and the A’s will undoubtedly look to him as one of their strongest performers in 2019.

Friday’s procedure was his second of the year, as he also underwent an ulnar sided sesamoid bone excision in his thumb back in October. Per Lee and MLB.com’s Manny Randhawa, Chapman is expected to make a complete recovery within a two-month window, after which point he’ll likely be in fine shape to contribute during spring training.